What are the best shrubs for small gardens?


Making the most of a smaller garden is not always an easy task. While design, layout and garden accessories can all play key roles in defining your garden, you will be amazed at the impact something as simple as the shrubs you choose to grow can have on a small outdoor space. 

From looking at a few of the best shrubs to plant and exploring the key methods of utilising space, this handy post will help you create a sublime outdoor space and provide everything you need to know about planting a smaller garden. 

How to plant a small garden

Despite what you may believe, small gardens have lots of wonderful advantages. Not only do they tend to be far more low-maintenance, they also allow for your creative side to flourish. Even the smallest of additions, be it a well-placed flower bed or a shrub-based colour scheme, can have a dramatic impact.

Naturally, the smaller the garden, the fewer plants you can fit in it. However, through finding the right balance of different sized plants and a variety of contrasting colour, making your small garden feel like a much larger space can be easily achieved. 

small garden with a section of grass and patio with lots of green plants in pots

Limit your choices

It’s easy for a small space to become cluttered if there is too much variety. Large focal point plants and a plethora of different vegetation can lead to a cramped and restricted feel to your garden. This can be avoided by limiting your plant choices to just two or three varieties of carefully selected shrubs and keeping colour schemes simple. While this may sound restrictive, it’s worth remembering that even by limiting your choice of different shrubs you will still want to plant a few of each, filling your flower beds and verges easily.

As a rule of thumb, shrubs for small gardens should provide either an eye-catching and consistent bright colour or have an evocative fragrance, but sometimes a combination of both can be found. For example, bella anna hydrangea, festuca, rhododendrons, magnolias and even lavender continue to prove ever-popular choices for small outdoor spaces. However, a great starting point can be found in the form of two lesser used shrubs - asplenium and berberis.


Asplenium, or hart’s tounge fern as it is also known, is a low-maintenance fern that thrives in either full or partial shade, making it ideal for small gardens. It is renowned for its vibrant green hue and wavy-edged fronds that remain visible throughout the year. The asplenium’s shiny leaves trap and reflect sunlight all year round bringing a glimpse of life to even the bleakest of winter mornings. This can transform a small, cold garden into a vibrant evergreen landscape. Every garden needs a fern and every small garden needs an asplenium. 


With a range of different varieties, from dwarf species, perfect for beds and rock gardens, to larger examples best suited for shrub verges or garden hedge borders, berberis are also ideal for small gardens. Along with their thorny stems, berberis shrubs produce striking foliage and bear small red to yellow berries in autumn, which will inject much needed colour into your garden. Like asplenium, berberis is easy to grow and maintain, ensuring those gardens with limited space can be managed easily, preventing that unwanted cluttered aesthetic so common with smaller outdoor areas.

Using a combination of particular and limited shrub selection along with a disciplined approach to planting your garden, smaller outdoor spaces can be transformed, making it possible for your small garden to feel like a much larger space.

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